South Fremantle legend Stephen Michael has chalked up another remarkable achievement in football, this time coaching the first ever Collie Eagles girls’ junior side into a Grand Final.
The Eagles Under-14s girls are not only playing their first season as a team. Before round one—only two of the players had played football before.
On Saturday they face Bunbury Grammar and could complete the fairy tale by winning a premiership.
“First time they have been together as a team. Some of the teams we are up against have been together for three years … I haven’t seen anything like it before in girls’ football,” Michael told NIT.
He attributed the girls’ amazing season to their attitudes and confidence.
“It is about self-belief. I don’t rant and rave, I don’t try a different game plan every week, I ask them a simple question—do you believe in yourselves, because I believe in you girls—and they come up with a positive attitude,” he said.
“Some of the girls have more ability than others but at the end of the day it’s a team effort. They have a great attitude—they don’t complain, they don’t whinge, it’s a real credit to the girls.”
Michael said he shares leadership responsibilities across the entire team.
“Every week there is a different captain. I am a great believer that every player is a captain on the field.”
He said the community’s enthusiasm for the team had played an important role.
“There has been unbelievable support from the community, especially the parents, the sponsors.”
Michael said the Club went from never having a youth girls’ team to “all of a sudden, you end up with 24, 25 girls who want to play footy”, including his five granddaughters.
Michael was approached by many VFL clubs in his playing prime, with Geelong particularly eager to see him head east, but chose to stay in Western Australia with his family.
At South Fremantle he played 243 games, including 188 matches with the WAFL, and kicked 231 goals.
A two-time Sandover Medallist, a five-time Bulldogs best and fairest, a Simpson Medallist, a Tassie Medallist, a premiership player and the captain of the 1983 All Australian team, the Australian and West Australian hall of fame player said he’s “just the girls’ grandfather” when it comes to coaching.
“I don’t put myself out there or promote myself. I am the girls’ grandparent, I go along to help them out and encourage them, their achievements in sport and in pursuing their future goals,” he said.
“The parents are great role models and support, taking the girls where they need to be, it’s great.”
By Giovanni Torre